David Wood Is No Longer Worth My Time

This Blog Entry has been reposted because some people still think it's a mutual misunderstanding that Mr. Wood and I have with each other. Some of that is undoubtedly true, but I have just responded to this in comments 58-61 (beware, harsh language at one point).

I still want to stress that I like David Wood very much, and apart from our disputes I would consider him a friend of mine. What I am strictly dealing with are his arguments. Nothing personal is implied, even if I have been frustrated with him at times. He's a good man.

I do commend him for dealing with the problem of evil. My claim is that he is not dealing with this problem head on. I think he ought to take the advice of Adam in the comments below and just say he believes in the goodness of God despite the suffering in this world as a sort of Kierkegaardian leap of faith, and leave it at that. For as long as he wants to figure this out, he won't be able to do so.


Dr. Weisberger told me I'm wasting my time with David Wood of Answering Infidels and The Problem of Evil Blog. Like many others before her, I think she's right. She also advised me to argue with him on my blog, so I am now. I want people to see how he argues. So here we go...

Mr Wood claims that the argument from the problem of evil is an atheist argument. I responded that the problem of evil would have to be dealt with by him even if no atheist argued for it, since it flows out of that which he believes about an omni-God. He responded by distinguishing between the "problem of evil" and the "argument from evil," and the "argument from evil" is indeed an atheist argument. If successful as an atheist, he argues I'm trying to show that "God doesn't exist." But that is High School level thinking. A process theologian could press the argument, as could a pantheist. The conclusion of the argument isn't that God doesn't exist, only that if God exists he either isn't omnibenelovent, omniscient, or omnipotent. So why is it an atheist argument when it may not lead to atheism? A Deist could use it. I think it does show the Christian God doesn't exist, but it most emphatically doesn't lead to atheism. The amazing thing to me is that David does not back down, so far, and I don't expect him to here either.

After disagreeing with Dr. Weisberger's discussion of the burdern of proof , which I in turn agreed with her, Mr. Wood claims something wildly fanciful about that "method" (which isn't a method at all). He wrote:
"So the question arises, "Why would John cling to such an absurd method?" The answer: "Because he can't handle having to support his arguments with evidence." I see no other explanation.

Really now? Is it really true he can see no other explanation? Come on now David, think a little more deeply than that. What other explanations are there for why we argue you have the burden of proof here? Could it be that we think you do, irrespective of anything else? The burden of proof is not on the person who is disputing a claim, especially an extraordinary claim about an omni-God (or that there are invisible gremlins), but on the claimant. The person who makes a claim always has the burden of proof. Furthermore, if what he says is true, that I cannot support my arguments with evidence, then why is it that I am stressing the evidence, and arguing that that evidence is overwhelmingly against him? It's obvious that's what I've argued.

Besides Dr. Weisberger, Dr. Jeffry's also has commented on our debate. After reading both of their comments here's what David Wood said:

I've noticed something interesting, however. Both atheist reviewers (Weisberger and Jeffrys) seem to imply that John's arguments didn't work. That is, Jeffrys's response was "It would have been good to bring X up, and you shouldn't have let him get away with Y." Weisberger, apart from outlining [John's]arguments, responded by showing what she would have said in response to my claims. That is, at no point does either reviewer say "David said so and so, but John proved that wrong when he said such and such." Instead, both reviewers try to explain to readers what John should have said.

David claims that what they both wrote seems to imply my arguments "didn't work." Really? That is so slipshod by way of evaluating what their intent was, that I didn't think it needed mentioning that this is a completely ignorant thing to say. [The reason I mention this now, is because I'm seeing quite a pattern here coming from Mr. Wood and I want to lay a few examples on the table]. They were entering the debate. They were offering their own take on the arguments in the debate. There is no way anyone should ever conclude that because they had their own arguments on the issue that this implies they thought my arguments were ineffective at all! This is a non-sequitur.

But there is more. There was a post at Triablogue about a book called, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence by David Benatar, where the author discusses whether or not parents should bring children into existence given the harms that life might bring upon them, and that parents should give it serious thought before bringing another child into this world. According to the editorial review, "David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. He argues for the 'anti-natal' view---that it is always wrong to have children. Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population." You can see the book and the reviews for yourselves here

Okay so far?

Now in comes David Wood, who wrote:

This guy sounds like John Loftus with a PhD.

Really? Is that what I am saying? We'll get to that later.

Then Jim Pemberton wrote:

Let's see a show of hands: who is glad they were born - despite any discomfort? I'm raising mine.

Then David Wood wrote:

THIS JUST IN FROM JOHN LOFTUS:

Jim,

You said that you're raising your hand because you'd rather live. But what about all the people who can't raise their hands because their hands have been chopped off in an accident? What about them? Huh?!! What about people who were born without hands! It must be easy for you to raise your hand, since you've got one. But other people don't have them, and they all understand that it would be better to die. Yeah, they understand. They can't play Nintendo like you. Cause they don't have hands. So think about that, Mr. Handman. Think about people with no hands. And you'll see that we'd all be better off not existing. That's why I don't like God, you know. Cause he made me exist and all. And he doesn't give me everything I want. That's just not right.

Now check out my response:

John W. Loftus said (with corrected typos)...
Okay, funny guys.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, "you'll wish you were never born?" That usually refers to someone who is about to be beaten or tortured to a bloody pulp. There have been such people you know. There have been people born who never had a pleasurable day, due to sickness, starvation, and torture. There are teenagers who have merely spoken their minds only to spend the rest of their lives in a gulag and to die, never seeing their parents again. I could go on and on and on, of course.

This is what I'm referring to, and all you can do is to joke about it. But I understand why you must do so. Because you can't face the problem head on for what it really is.

But there is more. After these people die, according to Christian theology some of them, maybe most of them, will suffer eternal conscious torment forever in hell. This is where the other shoe drops.

Face the problem head on. There are people according to YOUR own theology who wish they had never been born.

Stop joking about this real situation from the standpoint of the silver spoons in your mouths.

You actually make me sick.

I do think it's sick to so glibly treat a serious issue of why GOD, not parents, brings people into existence. And I think it's ignorant to even hint that my argument is anywhere close to what David Wood says it is here. He even thinks I wish I never existed! He has even argued that, if I enjoy life, I "shouldn't constantly describe the world as if it's nothing but a cesspool of death, disease, and bloodshed." But that again, is nothing like what I'm saying. He just doesn't understand for some reason. There is good in the world. I enjoy life very much. My questions are about why so many people (other than me) have to suffer so much if there is a good God, and why this God created such a world when he knew in advance that these people will suffer like they do.

Speaking of my questions, that's all he thinks I'm doing, asking questions. He summarized my 20 minute opening statement by placing the following words in my mouth: "I asked 'why this?' and 'why that?' for twenty minutes without making a serious argument." If anyone can read my opening statement and come away thinking I never made a serious argument, he is intellectually challenged.

I have repeatedly asked Mr. Wood to state my argument in his own words, and the two times he tried to do so, he failed miserably. So I challenge him to do so again, if he responds here. For he cannot seriously interact with my argument until he can effectively state it. That's what scholars do before they argue against someone. First they lay out the other person's argument, so that everyone can see for themselves if he did so fairly, with no strawmen. And scholars must do so charitably too, giving it the most charitable interpretation. I suspect he refuses to do so because he cannot effectively argue against it. Whether that's the case or not is to be seen. Maybe I'm wrong on this. But because he misunderstands and misrepresents so much of what I'm saying, I doubt it.

David Wood responded:

"You actually make me sick."

MORE FROM LOFTUS:

If God exists, why would he make so many people who make me sick? A good God would have put us on different planets, so I wouldn't get sick thinking about you disgusting people and your logic and all that. If I had the choice between living in a world with you people, and not living at all, I'd rather not exist. But here again, God hasn't given me what I want. So I will fight against him with all my might, and I will teach him that no one denies John Loftus! No one!

My concern here is that David Wood is in a Ph.D program at Fordham University in Philosophy where he must logically evaluate arguments. When it comes to the problem of evil he shows little evidence that he can do this. I wonder what his professors would think of this? It does not speak well for Fordham University, in my opinion. What Mr. Wood is saying is filled with many strawmen arguments, including the informal fallacy of "horse laughter."

Then I responded one final time:

John Loftus said...
David, I guess your response either means 1) my questions are silly and have already been answered by you so the only fitting response is to laugh at me, even though my questions about existing are sincere ones, and even though I have never seen you even attempt to answer them, ever, or 2) you refuse to face head on what your theology commits you to, so you refuse to deal with it. If there are other options please let me know what they are.

Bottom tier buddy. Sorry. But that conclusion is inescapable.

Carry on then. Bring on more ridicule. When you actually want to deal with this problem, let me know.

When I referred to "bottom tier," here, I meant that he is in the bottom third tier of those who defend the Christian faith, which parallels his placing the Rational Response Squad in the bottom third tier of those who defend atheism.

There are probably about ten types of things Mr. Wood continues to argue that shows me he's not really dealing with the problem of evil head on, and which shows me he is in the bottom third tier of those Christians who defend the Christian faith.

Now is he worth my time or not? I've just spend some time here, haven't I? Well, then yes, and no. Maybe I'm still hoping that by bringing these things to the light it might help him to take a serious look at what I'm actually saying and respond as the budding respectful scholar he's supposed to be. But until he does, I can no longer take him seriously.

62 comments:

Sacred Slut said...

"I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."

Anonymous said...

You sure do have a pretty name. Want to wrestle?

Rich said...

Well, John, I actually was interested in a blog centered on the POE so everything could be systematically discussed point by point. I am now dissappointed that it seems to be a who has the burden of proof gradeschool shootout. WHO CARES! Just take the POE and discuss IT not who has to bring proof for their argument. Isn't it actually resting on whoever is making a claim reguardless of their side? Meaning if you make a claim about the POE, back it up. Any way I think the discussion there(DW's blog) is a waste of time until it moves past this and into the meat of the problem. I keep checking the new posts and waiting for the turn, and I am absent from the discussion until then.

Lee Randolph said...

I notice that Christians like to call us naive, and restate our position incorrectly. They seem to like to claim that we are selfish and arrogant. Whether we are or are not is irrelevant.
These are diversionary tactics. Rhetoric. A respondent is justified in charging them with a lack of relevance, and press them to support their arguments with data or refute the claim with data. The burden of proof is fundamental in a critical discussion. Without that principle you don't really have discussion do you? You have a quarrel. According to scholars (Walton, van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Johnson, Blair, etc), anyone is justified in not participating in a critical discussion if the other participants fail to meet specific criteria such as relevance and burden of proof. I think its a good rule of thumb. I also think once a participant has decided to disqualify the other, it is worth staying in the discussion only long enough to let them make enough ridiculous and mocking statements so that a thoughtful audience can see the difference in style and then ask them about the peace that passes understanding and the indwelling of the spirit as a parting shot.

Heather said...

John

**But here again, God hasn't given me what I want.**

I have never seen you state any of your arguments in that way. How David is re-phrasing it makes it sound like you're a five year old whining because your parents didn't buy you a new toy.

Rather, what you're asking is why God creates so many people if they're basically going to live through hell on Earth. Take Darfur, for example. Or the thousands of children who die each year as a result of poor nutrition. I think it was Charles Templeton who lost his faith because he couldn't understand why God wouldn't send rain to a country suffering with drought. (Okay, it was a lot deeper than that, but that was a huge breaking point for him).

Basically, what you're trying to do is get an answer that reconciles the notion of God being good with how much suffering occurs in the world. And if the answer to that is we're all sinners and don't deserve God's goodness, then we're left with not one of us choose to be born sinners. In that theology, we're suffering for another's mistake. And then you'd have to ask yourself why an all-good God would want His creations to be born in such a way that they're destined to be naturally filthy and depraved before His sight. How is that good based on *any* definition of the word 'good?'

David Wood said...

John,

As far as I can tell, atheists make the "You're not worth my time" move with two kinds of people: (1) People who are complete idiots, and (2) People who are right. So it remains to be seen which category I'm in.

You said that I claimed that the Argument from Evil is an atheist argument because the conclusion is that God doesn't exist. Your response here is that the conclusion is that no all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God exists. Right. But you need to do some more reading in this area. What you just said is defined as narrow atheism by people like William Rowe and other major proponents of the Argument from Evil. In the most famous essay on PoE ever written, Rowe says that he uses the term atheism to mean the denial of the claim "that there exists a divine being that is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good." But you just agreed that that's the conclusion of the argument! Hence, if you wish to go against the grain, be my guest. But don't act like I'm an idiot here.

Moreover, go find a comprehensive book on arguments in the philosophy of religion. PoE will be in a section titled "Atheological Arguments"--i.e. arguments against theism.

Beyond this, all I meant when I originally referred to the "atheist argument," as I've already told you, was the argument being offered by the atheist side of the debate. I've never said that this is an argument only used by atheists, and you know that. Yet you keep telling everyone that this is my claim, which is why I keep telling you that you seem dishonest.

What's more, I've never used this point to any advantage, which is why I can't fathom why you draw so much attention to it. My argument, from the beginning, has been that the burden of proof rests on whoever is making the argument. If an atheist is making an argument, the burden of proof is on the atheist. That's what I said. Yet when you respond, you say, "Oh, David is saying that PoE can only be made by an atheist." It's amazing that your readers don't care that you do this. Mine would rebuke me in heart beat.

Amazingly, you even agree with me when you've got your guard down. Here's what you said about burden of proof:

The person who makes a claim always has the burden of proof.

Amen! And in our debate, the claim was that the extent of suffering in our world makes the existence of God implausible. So according to your own words, you had the burden of proof!

I find it quite funny that you posted some comments from Triablogue and pretend that you're a victim. You go around from site to site, calling everyone a moron and an idiot, but as soon as someone pokes fun at you, you're suddenly made out of glass. Then you get sensitive people like Heather complaining that poor John Loftus has been insulted. But that's your intent, of course.

Rich complains that I talked about burden of proof on my website. But I was responding to an article on your site! So here's what we have: (1) DC posts an article claiming that theists always bear the burden of proof. (2) I respond by pointing out that the burden rests on whoever is making the proposition. (3) DC readers complain that I'm talking about burden of proof!

Ah well. I have to confess, John, I think we'll get a lot more ground covered on my site without you complaining about insignificant points, saying the same thing over and over again, calling people names, etc. But you know you'll be back. You've said I'm not worth your time over and over and over, and yet you keep posting comments. The reason is that you're just saying I'm not worth your time as an insult. But I'll say this.

John, your arguments are awful. You don't understand basic logic. You rarely understand what someone is arguing, so we end up getting bogged down in silly disputes. Take now, for instance. I wrote a post saying that the burden of proof rested on the atheist in our debate, since the atheist was making the claim. You jumped all over my phrase "atheist argument," putting meaning into it I never intended (though William Rowe and others would indeed classify it as an atheist argument), and draw everyone's attention away from the real issue.

You're absolutly correct. I'm not worth your time. It seems that your goal is to lead people away from Christianity. But I don't think I'll be led away from Christianity by a person who doesn't know how to put together an argument. So have fun, John. I'll see you tomorrow on my site.

Anonymous said...

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E-MAIL: fred@fredsbibletalk.com

David Wood said...

John has made some strong claims about me, and I've made some strong claims about him. Here's a little exercise for anyone who's interested.

Go to my site and read one of my recent posts (e.g. the first and second responses to Weisberger). Everything is carefully organized and thoroughly argued. Then start reading the comments. You can see for yourself where problems start. John enters the discussion with some misused, misunderstood comment, then keeps arguing it over and over and over. From that point on, we get nowhere. Then, when everyone has finally shown how absurd his claims are, he retreats to his own site, misrepresenting everything, because he knows he can get away with it over here.

Wood’s Blog

Rich said...

Dave you had some good initial posts and they were great discussions. Now it seems like we have to define who has the burden of proof. When in the end it looks like all agree that it is the one with a claim, either for or against the POE. So now with that out of the way, go back to post like you started with. So complaining? Yes I am but that is because I feel you are more worried about who has to bring proof then you are the POE. I could be wrong here and if so accept my apology, but that's how I see it right now.

Lok said...

Seriously, I really do think both of you need to take a break from this. Everything has been said and written over and over again. Trust your readers. If you feel that your case is stronger, trust your readers to be intelligent enough to find out by themselves. Trust your readers that they know where the burden of proof lies. Trust your reader that they can see who is misinterpreting arguments.

Lok

David Wood said...

Rich,

You said you want a thorough analysis of PoE. A huge part of the analysis concerns burden of proof. Here's why. If we assume from the beginning that the atheist bears the burden of proof to show that the argument really does what he claims it does, then if we end up at a standstill on some point, the argument fails, because the atheist hasn't proved that it succeeds. But if we assume that the theist bears the burden of proof when the atheist makes the argument, then if we end at standstill, the theist loses, because he has failed to show whatever it is he's required to show.

Both John and I know that the Argument from Evil ends at a standstill (though I'm sure he won't admit this). Thus, the matter comes down to burden of proof, which is why we've gone back and forth on this. If, as I have claimed, the atheist bears the burden of proof because the atheist is the one making the argument here, then the argument from evil fails.

Now with that out of the way, let's not pretend that I've been harping on this issue for six months. I did a post on it, and I defended my argument against Loftus's mistaken criticisms. What else am I supposed to do on a blog?

Lok,

I agree completely, which is why I moved on to a new post on my blog.

Sandalstraps said...

John and David,

John, you already know that I don't usually waste my time with such silliness, and David you'll have to take my word for it, but...

It strikes me that perhaps the only relevant consideration here - aside from juvenile one's concerning who has the burden of proof, and consideration of manners in civil discourse - concerns whether or not one can say that the Problem of Evil is an atheist argument.

David, I say this to you as a confessing Christian who is deeply concerned by your behavior as it is represented here: as a matter of historical fact, the problem of evil is decidedly not an atheist argument. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that theists of various stripes today are deeply troubled by the problem that evil poses for particular beliefs about God, it is indisputably the case that theodicies were first offered long, long before it made sense to speak of atheism.

Atheism, like all other cultural phenomena and belief systems, is not eternal. There are many points in history in which it was not only not safe, but quite impossible for any human being to fail to believe in some kind of a god or gods. That fact does not make it any more or less likely that a god or gods exist, it is simply a historical fact.

Likewise it is a historical fact that, for instance, when Augustine was composing his various theodicies in Hippo in the late fourth and early fifth century CE, he was not doing so in response to some atheistic attack on Christianity, but because he recognized that the experiential fact of suffering pointed to the existance of evil, and thus posed a real problem for any monotheistic belief system. Perhaps not a fatal problem, but a problem that demanded a rigorous theological response.

In fact, Jewish Biblical scholar Israel Knohl asserts (rightly, I think) that evil has always posed a problem for any form of monotheism because there are no evil deities to be blamed for the existance of evil. As such, he sees even the first creation myth of Ancient Israel (especially Genesis 1:1 -3) as a mythological/theological response to the problem posed by evil by the priests of the time of Hezekiah. (For more, feel free to see this post.)

In any event, attempts by monotheists of various stripes to wrestle with the theological implications of evil are as old as monotheism itself, and by far predate atheism. So, aside from the fact that not all who assert today that evil poses a serious problem that demands a theological answer or the rejection of our God-concepts are atheists, as a simple matter of history the problem of evil - though perhaps it has somewhat contributed to the rise of atheism - is not related to atheism, and is certainly not an atheist argument.

As for the rest of it, for what its worth, do yourself a favor and start acting like a Christian and a philosopher. I hope that I say this in love, but nonetheless I say it, and with all the urgency that I can muster, as one who claims the name of Christ to another. It is beneath the diginity of both your faith and your academic discipline to engage in ad hominem attacks and juvenile pissing contests.

Sandalstraps said...

John,

While I addressed my comment to both you and David, all of the content ended up being addressed to David. Perhaps that is because he and I see ourselves as bound to the same authority, and so I can speak to him as a Christian to a Christian.

To you, I simply say that sometimes, for your own mental health, you simply have to let something go. Whether it is his fault, your fault, a combination of the two, or perhaps even nobody's fault, it doesn't seem to me that this conversation is doing you any good. Let it go, man. Just let it go. Without bitterness, resentment, or judgment, just let it go.

You'll feel better, I promise.

David Wood said...

Sandalstraps,

Before you go around correcting people, perhaps you should actually read what they've written. I've said repeatedly (even here on this blog) that the only thing I meant by "atheist argument" was the argument being offered by the atheist side of the debate. I've also said, over and over and over, that anyone could make this argument, including agnostics, deists, Christians trying to exercise their mental faculties, and so on. But I have noted, in addition, that this argument is classified as an atheist argument by philosophers such as William Rowe, since the conclusion of the argument is that the God of traditional theism doesn't exist.

Despite this, John says that I'm saying this is only an argument offered by atheists. I corrected him on this, and then you enter the conversation with a long post saying that other people can make the argument from evil, which I've agreed with all along!!!

To review (since you obviously don't feel like reading what I've said), here's my position:

(1) Whoever makes an argument bears the burden of proof.

(2) In a debate on whether the Argument from Evil proves the non-existence of God, the atheist is making the argument, and therefore bears the burden of proof.

(3) If someone else makes the argument, whether atheist, agnostic, devil-worshiper, theist, or whatever, the person making the argument would bear the burden of proof.

You and John look at all of that and somehow say, "He's just arguing that only atheists have to deal with PoE." I have absolutely no clue how John could make such a mistake, let alone how you could agree with him.

Since we're rebuking one another publicly in front of atheists, I would simply say that if you're going to spend so much time correcting someone, you might want to make sure your criticisms are accurate before you do so. Do you know why John retreats to his site, misrepresents what I say, distracts people from the real issue, and complains about people so much? It's because people like you let him get away with it.

Heather said...

David,

**Then you get sensitive people like Heather complaining that poor John Loftus has been insulted. But that's your intent, of course.** Actually, what I'm reacting to is a theme I seem to see in response to the POE argument. When someone says they can't reconcile the problem of evil/suffering to a good God, it's not that the person is saying, "How dare God not give me what I want." But that has sometimes been the Christian response, and it's frustrating. If it's not the response I'm angry over God not acting like Santa Clause, it's that I'm clearly in rebellion/hating God, or too in love with my sin, or not sufficiently moved by the Holy Spirit.

Take my brother -- he's a minority at the school he goes to. For the past five or six years, he has been spit on, called racial slurs, surrounded by people he thought were his friends and physically attacked, have had kids threaten to kill him, has been choked by a kid and though he was going to die (that was not an exaggeration, I saw the bruises). School has been hell for him. When he goes into stores, people look at him differently just because of his race. And, as a minority, he's investigated his heritage and found things such as the Asian Holocaust, or the atrocities the Japanese committed against the Chinese/Koreans in WWII. He doesn't believe in God, and I don't blame him.

It's not a matter of insulting John. It's that you're belittling something that people do find troubling, and then dismissing it as saying those people are simply selfish.

David Wood said...

Heather said:

"It's not a matter of insulting John. It's that you're belittling something that people do find troubling, and then dismissing it as saying those people are simply selfish."

Heather,

If you actually stop to read what the post was about, the topic was whether it is better to not exist than to exist in a world with pain. The atheist author of the book under discussion claims that existence is bad, and therefore we shouldn't have children, and it would be better if we all went extinct.

Some views are so bad that they should be made fun of. Recalling Loftus's constant complaints that God shouldn't create a world, I said that the author sounds like Loftus with a PhD. Then I made a caricature of Loftus's response to what was being said. Loftus is normally fine when we poke fun at one another. But he decided to come back here, post some comments I made in jest (which both of us do quite often), in an effort to make it appear as if I don't take PoE seriously. He does this, as I've said, because it works, as your own comments prove.

I could, of course, make a post tomorrow, stringing together all the occasions where Loftus has called me stupid, an idiot, a moron, etc., but why would I do this? To do so would be an obvious attempt to make people think that Loftus is mean, which would distract everyone from the issues.

Did you catch that last part? To run around complaining "Loftus has been mean to me" would distract people from the issues, which is something I don't want to do. So what are we to make of a post where (1) Loftus misrepresents my position, (2) Complains that I've been poking fun at him (which cuts both ways; this is the first time I've been aware of the fact that John is not to be joked with), and (3) Everyone starts complaining that I'm mean, while (4) Loftus sits back and laughs? It seems that this was John's intention, after realizing that he can't get anywhere with actual arguments.

David Wood said...

Yep, John, worked like a charm.

(1) Wood makes an argument.

(2) Loftus distorts Wood's argument.

(3) Wood corrects Loftus.

(4) Loftus again distorts Wood's argument.

(5) Wood again corrects Loftus.

(6) Loftus writes a post saying how mean and stupid Wood is.

(7) People start complaining how mean Wood is.

(8) Wood defends himself.

(9) Everyone is now distracted from the original issue.

(10) Loftus smiles at his victory.

Again, it works every time you do it, John.

John W. Loftus said...

In all fairness to David, his side of this discussion was expressed recently on his Blog:

David Wood:
I'm noticing a pattern, John.

Step One: You raise some issue or accusation.

Step Two: I refute it, usually quite easily.

Step Three: Instead of actually responding to my claims, you say what a lousy opponent I am.

Step Four: We start over.

Keep it up, John. I want the whole world to see the difference between evidence and nonsense.


Me too.

Anyone who reads your Blog and comes away thinking you have not said the POE is an atheist argument, hasn't read what you said closely (Just look at the words you use: "the atheist says," "the atheist argues," etc). You're still maintaining it here when you refer to Rowe. But whether atheists (or theists, for that matter) all accept his definition is certainly an ill-founded assumption.

But by saying this I am once again, according to you, moving on to "Step Three." That's why I chose to respond to you here at DC, you know. It's because I was refuted on your Blog so many times I needed reinforcements, right?

After we start over again we shall be back on "Step Two," where you "refute" what I say, "quite easily." ;-)

Ouch! I never knew how easily I am being refuted before. And to think, I'm also supposed to realize this before moving on to "Step Three." Well, truthfully, it's worse than this, because apparently I move on to "Step Three" without even realizing you have refuted me.

Maybe I'm the one in trouble here?

Know any good psychologists? I feel like laying down on the couch.

Calvin said...

Heather,

Adam jumped into the pit. In Adam we all jumped into the pit. God didn't throw us into the pit. God told him to stay away. The consequences Adam experienced from being in the pit were a direct punishment for jumping into it. So it is with original sin. We are born sinners because in Adam we all fell. Adam jumped into sin with both feet. We jumped in with him. God didn't push us. He gave us adequate and fair warning. The fault is ours and only ours. It is not that Adam ate sour grapes and our teeth are set on edge. The biblical teaching is that in Adam we all ate the sour grapes.

John W. Loftus said...

I do get frustrated with the way Wood is arguing, as I have shown in this Blog Entry. At times I have called him an idiot, and one time I've called him a moron.

Do you know what he said when I did? He claimed that the reason I do so is because I'm losing the argument! Yep, that's his claim. It couldn't be because he doesn't try to truly engage me with actual arguments of mine rather than charicatures. If he provides any quotes of me calling him an idiot, I only ask he provides the whole context. It's always in response to him not getting what I'm saying.

Another ouch!

To even engage him anymore is like wallowing in the mire. We both come up dirty. I'm not going to do it anymore. I don't like responding to juveniles. It makes me look like one.

I've had enough.

David Wood said...

Let’s review, for the millionth time.

If I’m responding to an atheist who is making an argument, I refer to the argument as “the atheist’s argument” or something to that effect. If I respond, I say something like “the theist responds . . .” Does this mean that only a theist could use this response? Of course not. The point is that in the context of the discussion, an atheist is saying one thing, and a theist is responding.

That’s how I use the terms. Nothing in my case rests on this terminology in any way. But John enters the discussion and pretends that I’ve said that only atheists use this argument. Is that true? No, it’s false, and John knows it’s false. But he also knows that he can get people like Sandalstraps to agree with him, so he does it anyway.

An issue entirely separate from the way I use “atheist argument” (again, referring to an argument used by an atheist in a discussion) is whether the Argument from Evil should in fact be classified as an atheist argument. Here I say, “What is the conclusion of the argument?” The conclusion is that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being does not exist. This is a position that is called “Narrow Atheism,” and people like William Rowe (the world’s leading defender of the Argument from Evil) use the term “atheist” in the narrow sense. So, is the Argument from Evil, in Rowe’s sense, an atheist argument? Absolutely.

But if I point to this use by Rowe, Loftus immediately changes the sense of atheism. And this is simply dishonest. Actually, atheists constantly switch the meaning of terms to make an argument.

Notice I’ve been talking about the “Argument from Evil,” and not the “Problem of Evil.” The Problem of Evil is simply this: “If God exists, why is there so much suffering in the world?” No argument is being made here. And atheists, theists, and everyone in between can ponder the Problem of Evil. But the Argument from Evil is something different. It claims to prove something, namely, that the God of traditional theism does not exist. As such, it is an atheist argument in the narrow sense of atheism employed by philosophers.

Does this mean that only atheists can make the argument? Of course not, and I’ve never, ever claimed anything like this.

So what do we have now? The Argument from Evil is an atheist argument, when atheism is thought of in the narrow sense used by philosophers. This says absolutely nothing about who makes the argument. Instead, it refers to how the argument is classified based on the conclusion. It is an argument against traditional theism. Hence, it is an argument that a certain being does not exist. This means that it is an argument whose conclusion is that the being that theists believe in does not exist. Thus, it is an atheist argument.

But even though it is an atheist argument (once again, not based on who can make the argument, but based on what the argument is supposed to prove), this has nothing to do with the way I used the phrase “atheist argument” on my blog. I use the term (notice how simple this is) to refer to whoever is making the argument, and in the case of the Loftus-Wood debate, or Weisberger’s comments, it is an atheist.

Of course, John will read all of this, and continue to pretend that I’m saying something I have never, ever said, namely, that this is an argument only atheists use. That’s false, false, false, and the fact that John keeps making the claim, again, makes me question his integrity. Notice (1) how simple all of this is, and (2) how complicated John makes it. I’ll most likely repeat all of this ten more times tonight, since John is going to continue saying that I said something that I’ve never once said.

Heather said...

David,

**Then I made a caricature of Loftus's response to what was being said.** The problem I have is that your caricature is a standard response that I find a lot, from a lot of Christians. The only comment I was addressing was, and this is a paraphrase, "God didn't give me my own way/do what I want." No matter who the person that you were making a caricature of, and no matter what the topic was, my response would've been the same. What that response does is focus the attention back on the person wondering about the PoE, and then that person has to explain that it's not a selfish question. And in turn, that means that the PoE isn't addressed, but rather tha nature of the person talking about how suffering causes one to doubt the goodness of God. It's almost a way of avoiding dealing with the topic altogether -- and that is why I'm reacting the way I am.

I did understand what you were doing, and what you were responding to. You said you meant it in jest -- but I've seen it as a serious response to situations such as the one I described with my brother. But even here, you're grouping me in with saying, "I'm complaining that you're mean." Which is reducing what I see as a serious frustration to something little. A complaint is when I say John was mean for calling you an idiot.

Sophia De Morgan said...

John,
I'm pretty sure everyone on Triablogue, who read David's posts which you quoted here as if he only mocks and picks on you, realized that he was just poking fun. I think that has been the general tone of your dialogue as well on his site, although from what I see, you do become particularly vicious when people aren't persuaded of your view. So what else is David to conclude except that you're a poor loser?

Also you keep complaining that no real Christian apologists think that the Argument from Evil is an atheist one...sorry to burst your bubble here but in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview in the chapter on Problem of Evil, J.P.Moreland and William Lane Craig use the term "atheist" to describe the person who presents an argument based on evil and must subsequently support it with evidence and argumentation. Are these lower tier apologists as you are attempting to claim that David is? Hardly.
In fact, I recently saw an exchange between Daniel Dennet and W.L.Craig in which Dennet complimented Craig as demonstrating tremendous argumentation and flawless logic. The entire audience, mostly Christian, applauded Dennet's graciousness, and then they all laughed when Dennet said, "Of course, I disagreed with about everything he said."
The point of this vignette is that I think it offers a vividly, striking contrast with your behavior towards David's disagreement with your arguments. You constantly accuse him of being stupid but the only reason you offer for this absurd and patently false claim is because he doesn't accept your view. You need to understand that people can disagree without calling each other stupid.
Although, I think everyone would like to see some more atheist-theist interaction on the issue, you probably should stop posting on problem of evil site if you're so upset by a little spirited repartee that you have to do a whole post complaining about David picking on you. If you think you can debate and give and take criticism without descending into these puerile attacks, then by all means continue to post on problemofevil.org.

Sophia De Morgan said...

Heather,
I understand your concern about apologists not seeming to take the problem of evil seriously, but as David pointed out in his original debate with Loftus with his Sophie's Choice analogy is that debates on this issue focus on arguments and are not really the place to cope emotionally with various tragedies. (Although, as a suggestion, maybe David should do a more pastoral type of post on his blog anyway.)
Now, as to the personal element when it comes to responses to suffering--I think those can't be ignored. A couple weeks ago, David posted an excerpt from A Scandalous Beauty which talked about an amazing woman who was suffering for decades yet praised and thanked God for the blessings He had given her. Mabel was her name, and she is only a more striking example of many people who do not respond to suffering by becoming atheists, so there is something about differing people's reactions that is affected by personal characteristics. It would be interesting to explore what those characteristics are.

John W. Loftus said...

No Mrs. Wood. I am no longer interested in discussing this with David.

If you want to know the type of discussion I was interested in, you can see an example in the comments section here.

I do that regularly with people who seek to understand and discuss, even if we disagree, and it takes a certain level of understanding to do that.

David Wood said...

Heather,

There are two types of atheists who make the Argument from Evil: (1) People who are really concerned about evil, and (2) People who are only concerned about evil because it gives them ammunition when arguing against theists.

I'm inclined to take objections by the first sort quite seriously, but when the second sort begin complaining about suffering (and sometimes it seems that they're almost happy to have such an argument against God), I find it a bit difficult to patiently endure their complaints.

You might wonder how we can distinguish between the two. I usually ask what a person is doing to alleviate suffering in the world. If the answer is "nothing" (as it is in John's case), I have to suspect that the person isn't really concerned about evil, but instead is only concerned about proving the non-existence of God. The opposite is true too. The night after my first debate with John, my wife and I were talking to an atheist about the debate, and he was complaining about suffering. My wife asked whether he's doing anything to prevent suffering. The man turned out to be a detective who catches kidnappers. I'm far more inclined to listen to what he has to say than to someone who doesn't really care about evil.

True, theists do argue that atheists are just mad that they don't get their way. I argue this sometimes, but only when the atheist's argument implies it. For instance, if an atheist says, "Why are so many people dying in Africa?" this doesn't have much to do with the atheist not getting what he wants. But when the atheist starts saying (as John does) that God should give us wings and gills, or that God should take away free will, or that God should give us lives of complete bliss, then the atheist is merely saying, "I want this and I want that and God hasn't done it so I won't believe." And that's just not a good argument.

In other words, sometimes the atheist is merely complaining that he hasn't gotten his way. When he does so, it is relevant to point it out.

Sophia De Morgan said...

John,
I just looked back at the first statement on the original post you made here about David having a website only frequented by friends and fellow believers with no interaction with critics. That is absolutely false! On the main page of www.answeringinfidels.com, in plain view, is a category entitled "Your Rebuttals" and it is specifically for people who want to respond to articles posted on the site. This really clinches the case that you've been misrepresenting David.

Adam said...

I'm an atheist and I'm taking a grad course in philosophy of religion now. David is correct to distinguish the argument from evil from the problem of evil. And he is right that the argument from evil is generally viewed as an atheological argument. So in some sense, imo, he's correct to place the burden on the claimant -- the atheist in this case. However, the problem of evil has long been recognized by theists.

And since they are the ones who are postulating a divine being and since evil is a serious problem for their position (which they themselves recognize), it is up to them to resolve the problem if they wish to convince us to believe just as a scientist would have to resolve the internal problems of her new theory if she wished to convince others of its veracity. But, imo, if the atheist cannot establish her positive case, then it seems the proper response is agnosticism. But maybe the proper response is atheism, if atheism is viewed as the general default position, that is, if the theist in the broader context of debate has the burden of proof.

From what I can tell, the only tool available to the theist is to lean incredibly hard on our cognitive limitations and the inscrutability of God to make their position plausible. Well that's too strong. IF the theist could give us good reasons for believing in the fall AND could convince us to accept their rather strange moral views (like God is justified in punishing people for the sins of Adam, that God is justified in punishing people eternally, that the sacrifice on the cross makes sense) then I DO think the theist would have a strong case. However, I don't think there's any reason to accept either the fall or the strange moral views of Christianity. And I think the burden is on them there.

After all, if David didn't believe in the fall, and he didn't believe in the justice of hell I suspect he would feel a much greater force from the problem of evil. Thus, this is where I think the locus of debate should be focused. And I do think John is trying to go there in part by asking why a perfect God would create such an imperfect world.

From what I've read, it does seem that John has been, at times, overly dismissive and rude, but I do think David is really embarrassing himself with his "paraphrases" of John's argument.

In sum, I think the debate should focus on cognitive limitations and the theological views I just mentioned. That's the reason that I can see why David just isn't moved by the force of the problem of evil. The world certainly doesn't like a triple-omni would have created it -- and David agrees since he believes in the withdrawal of God from the fall. Of course, I think it's pretty damn negligent just to withdraw and let the whole world go to tell, at least periodically -- in the black death, the holocaust -- etc. It's also unfair of David to argue that John just has his secular values and only from that standpoint do things look that bad. Any sane person would look at the black death and wonder what's going on.

I think that if someone wants to remain a theist they just need to lean heavy on divine mystery and make a semi-kierkegaardian leap. Because, based on the evidence we have and based on very natural moral intuitions, I think the Christian story just falls to pieces.

Two Chix Apologetics said...

John, David, et all,

I am just now getting a chance to read all the comments. Let me simplify what's going on here(yes, for myself...before anyone else takes a jab) and see if I'm on the right path.

The main issues:
1) The problem of evil argument as originating from atheist or theist which leads into
2) Who has the burden of proof, which is important because
3) The burden of proof side of the argument must show how the argument succeeds or we have no argument(?)

Now, from reading both your arguments, both sides have been clearly stated. My question is: what are you now doing?

MJ

Soul Food Dude said...

I have a question: what is rationality?

Is it that to think rationally is nothing more than to think as we ought to think?

If this is so, then how does one determine how one ought to think?

Ought all people to think the same way?

It seems that this 'ought' is rooted in a value judgment. I've heard it said that values should be determined rationally. Is this circular thinking, if indeed rationality presupposes a value judgment?

Can someone enlighten me?

Adam said...

Sorry for the typos. For background, check out Tooley's entry on the problem of evil in the SEP. I think the IEP has an entry too but I haven't read it.

Again, can David give us solid historical/scientific reasons for believing that a fall occurred and can he give a principled justification for the strange moral notions of Christianity?

In some sense, debates like these are hard because people are willing to deny natural premises and swallow strange ones to defend their view (I mean David here). A lot of philosophy rests on intuitions of plausibility. Sometimes all you can say is damn your beliefs are weird and that's that.

David Wood said...

MJ,

I'm not sure what John is doing. I'm (1) trying to clean up misunderstandings, and (2) trying to answer some questions.

Adam,

Here's the deal. Some theists (like myself) believe in God based on evidence. Other theists believe in God, but their belief isn't based on arguments.

When I argue for the existence of God, I'm making a positive claim. As such, the burden of proof is on me to make a solid case. But theists who don't base their belief on arguments aren't making a positive case for theism. That is, they're not saying, "Hey, you atheists should believe in God because of arguments X, Y, and Z."

The conclusion of the Argument from Evil is that God doesn't exist. But this doesn't just affect the person who's arguing for God's existence; it also affects the theist who isn't making an argument at all. That is, a certain theist has a belief, and the non-theist is arguing, based on the Argument from Evil, that the God the theist believes in does not exist. Notice that, in such a situation, the only person advocating a position, the only person trying to prove a view, is the atheist. So here, the atheist is the only one making a positive claim, and the only one who bears the burden of proof.

But the situation is different for a theist who tries to convince others, via natural theology or revelation, that God exists. We're making arguments. And when we make a design argument, or a cosmological argument, or an ontological argument, we bear the burden of proof in making such an argument for our position.

But in the same way, the atheist who makes an argument for his position (atheism) must bear the burden of proof in showing that his argument works. John's unwillingness to accept what seems like an obvious point here has caused quite a mess.

Now you made a good point that the theist must account for evil. But I would say that, while accounting for suffering is important in showing that theism has a good deal of explanatory power, until the atheist offers a sound argument from evil that is free from illicit assumptions, inconsistencies, etc., suffering doesn't yet count as a rational threat to God's existence.

But I think that, apart from arguments, suffering is relevant to positions insofar as that position either accounts for suffering or doesn't. A position that accounts for some piece of data is better (with regard to that data) than a position that doesn't account for the data. But here's where atheism fails miserably. Theism accounts for quite a bit. Theism can account for the existence of a finely-tuned world, for the origin of life, for objective moral values, for miracles, for religious experiences, and for countless other things. Atheists argue that theism doesn't account for evil. I don't think this is true, but even if it were true, it would simply be one thing that theism has trouble accounting for. Atheism, as far as I can tell, has trouble accounting for anything. So if we're talking about explanatory power, theism wins hands down over atheism, even if theism can't account for suffering.

But if it turns out that theism can account for suffering (and I think it can), then theism is just that much better than atheism. (John and I discussed this some in our second debate. You might want to check it out.)

In conclusion, what I see from atheists is something like this: "If I'm going to believe in your view, then it must account for everything perfectly. But your view doesn't account for suffering, even though you've got several responses to the argument from evil. But since you haven't satisfied me with respect to this data, I reject your position." Then the atheist goes off and believes in his atheism, forgetting the test that he applied to theism. For, if the atheist turned to his own worldview and said, "All right, my worldview must account for everything or I'll reject it," he would reject atheism instantly. Hence, I think it's problematic to turn to suffering and to pretend that this is the only data that bears on the question of God's existence. Why should our personal comfort be our focus when we think about God? Why should we define God's goodness in terms of the amount of pain/pleasure he bestows on us? It seems to make perfect sense to atheists, but I can't think of a single reason for thinking of goodness in terms of pain and pleasure. (Note: I'm not a hedonist.)

David Wood said...

Soul Food Dude:

That's probably not a question that can be answered in a comment section of a blog entry. But here are a few thoughts.

(1) There's quite a bit involved in rationality. One standard element is truth, and the most common view of truth is this: A statement is true if it corresponds to reality. So, you'd want to make sure your claims correspond to reality.

(2) If we have a number of true statements, we can infer other true statements via argumentation, i.e. the claim that one truth follows from other truths. Here we try to make sure that our logic is valid, i.e. that true statements will lead to true conclusions.

(3) But your question involves value judgments. And I think your question would be: "Does our emphasis on truth and logic itself spring from a value judgment?" Many thinkers would simply point to the success of the natural sciences or something like that to show that various methods of inference work. But here again you could ask, "But why should I care that these methods work?"

So I would say, yes, a value judgment is involved. At the end of the day, we just have to value rationality. It's simply the price of admission for philosophy. If a person is not willing to pay, he can't come in.

Two Chix Apologetics said...

David said:

MJ,
I'm not sure what John is doing. I'm (1) trying to clean up misunderstandings, and (2) trying to answer some questions.


John - what do you want to accomplish?

MJ

David Wood said...

Adam,

I gave an outline of a case for the fall here:

Four Evidences for the Fall

Be sure to watch the video, as this was the real point of the post.

But I think you're mistaken to think that the plausibility of Christianity somehow depends on whether we can make a solid case for the Fall. Don't forget about theodicies, which are philosophical explanations for suffering. And besides this, if the Argument from Evil doesn't succeed, the theist isn't under any obligation to explain suffering.

Sometimes all you can say is damn your beliefs are weird and that's that.

Let's not pretend that this is only the case for theists. I think the claim that the universe came out of nowhere for no reason is the weirdest claim I've ever heard (and so on with just about every other atheistic belief).

What exactly is the weird part about the Fall? Have you read my view of the Fall before?

es said...

I just read the post on the "evidences" for the fall. I am laughing my ass off here. That has to be one of the most illogical, irrational things I've read in a while. Especially coming from someone who styles himself a scholar of some type. That's evidence?

Really, John, just step away from the comments and let it go. The delusion is so incredibly deep and David has such a passionate need to be right about this that you are giving yourself high blood pressure for nothing.

David Wood said...

I just read the post on the "evidences" for the fall. I am laughing my ass off here. That has to be one of the most illogical, irrational things I've read in a while.

Ahhhh, the brilliant refutations one finds on "Debunking Christianity," where universes can pop into existence uncaused, but man cannot fall from grace; where amazingly complex structures can form without a designer, but God cannot honor our decision to live apart from him; where objective moral values do not exist unless it's time to argue against the existence of God. I love this site. I remember thinking like that. Praise King Jesus for saving me from myself.

David Wood said...

All right, Johnny boy. I guess this is good-bye. Steer clear of my site, and I'll steer clear of yours. It's been fun. Have a good life everyone. You guys don't like Jesus, so I'll leave you with some words by Epictetus (not exact, since this is from memory; I memorized these before I became a Christian):

"Even as the sun does not wait for prayers and incantations to rise, but rises of its own accord and shines over all, so you also should not wait for clapping of hands and shouts and praise to do your duty. No, do good of your own accord, and you will be loved like the sun."

"If any be unhappy, let him remember he is unhappy by reason of himself alone."

John W. Loftus said...

David, you are always welcome to comment here any time you'd like to do so.

But I will not comment on your Blog anymore.

You don't understand why I won't, do you?

That's another problem I have with you.

You just don't get it.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

Its always the same, John. What's really sick is that these invertebrates 1) hold the highest offices in our country and 2) set the terms of debate in every election.

And we cant even get a single honest, succinct answer out of them. Atlas Shrugged. In fact, maybe he should shrug.

And why are we debating?

Faith: Belief in something without, or even in spite of, evidence. And these people donr even know what they're worshiping! Check my bolg to find out what kind of figure they honor. The man most like the Judeo-Christian god is none other than Josef Stalin. What kind of respectable figure is he?

Blue Devil Knight said...

I don't know if he's wasting your time or vice versa, but it would surely be a waste of my time to sort through all this crap. :)

Deuc said...

Since I have no expectation of getting one from David Wood, does anyone have a quick summary of how thoughtful Christians are currently resolving the problem of evil. Something other than free will, since true free will itself seems contrary to reason, and I can imagine a better world with free will.

I'm with es on this, post something ludicrous/ridiculous you shouldn't be surprised if you get laughs or ridicule. And that four evidences link is amazingly bad.
Note: simplification but probably not a strawman.
1: Paul said so.
2: Man is often bad.
3: God exists.
4: Man is sometimes great.

It might have taken some thought and creativity to think of them, but not enough.

Calvin said...

Libertarian free will is a false view of free will. It is irrational and most importantly unbiblical.

elwedriddsche said...

My $0.02 worth:

I'm not interested in debates between atheists and apologists. At best, they show who is the better debater. At worst, it's an utter waste of time.

The problem of evil isn't mine. I don't have to reconcile the existence of evil with my secular and naturalistic world view. The problem is exclusively on the theist's side and all the answers I've heard them give are in my opinion risible.

The argument from evil is not an argument I would ever make. Instead of trying to stake a claim on the argument from evil and assume the burden of proof, it suffices to point out that the apologist's answers to the problem of evil are not convincing, compelling, coherent, you name it.

I have no idea who David Wood is, other than apparently an apologist of sorts. I'm not interested in visiting his haunts on the Internet and his latests snarks on this site make this is an easy decision.

DagoodS said...

Thank you, Adam for the summation on the Argument from Evil. You reflected my thoughts on the subject superbly.



David Wood,

I have a question to see if I correctly understand your position. I am NOT stating this is your claim (in case I mischaracterize it in any way) I am not demanding this be your position, I am not attempting to claim this is your position in order to back you into a corner where I already have a pointed argument gun waiting to fire.

I am simply attempting to see if I am clear on your position. If I am not, any enlightenment would be helpful. To anyone else reading, what I am about to say is NOT necessarily David Wood’s claim, so please do not assume that it is.

(Hopefully that is an adequate disclaimer. If not, I can provide more.)

Like Rich, I am surprised by the heavy emphasis on “Who has the Burden of Proof?” A question that came to mind, for me, was “Prove to whom?” Who is the one that makes the determination that the claimant’s position is proven?

So, in reading your posts regarding Burden of Proof, I was looking for an answer to that question, and I think I see what you are saying in this regard, but I want to be clear.

I think you are saying that all the opponent has to provide, in response to the proposal, is a logically possible alternative, and as long as it is logically cohesive, the proponent’s argument will fail. The “Burden of Proof” is not so much attempting to convince one side or the other, or a neutral party, as much as the proponent must demonstrate that the other person’s position is logically impossible. As long as the opponent provides a response that conforms to the rules of logic, the Burden fails.

Do I have that right?

It seems you are saying that you believe there is a logical possibility of a God* and therefore, from the existence of that God, the Burden will fail and the argument will fail.

Equally, it seems you are saying that on the other hand you see a logical possibility of there not being such a God, and from the non-existence of that God, the Burden would fail for the theist as well.

*for our purposes, I am presuming a monotheistic, powerful, benevolent God. Obviously a deistic God, or polytheistic or Evil God does not have a Problem of Evil.

It would look like:

Skeptic: Argument from Evil
Theist: Logical possibility of God.
Because the skeptic has the Burden of Proof—Failure!

Alternatively:

Theist: God is powerful and benevolent.
Skeptic: Argument from Evil (logical possibility of no God)
Because the theist has the Burden of Proof—Failure!

Simply put, are you saying that since there is a logical possibility of both sides, whoever has the Burden of Proof is doomed to failure? Does it come down to the coin toss, as it were?

(And you may be claiming “plausibility” rather than “possibility” and if so, I still need clarification. Please re-read my comment and insert “plausible” wherever you see “possible.” Thanks.)

Curiosis said...

Here is my take on who should have the burden of proof...

Take one person (let's call him David) who states that there is an invisible pink unicorn in his garage.

Another person comes along (we'll call him John) who says that David must be mistaken because invisibility is impossible and unicorns don't exist.

David says that John has the burden of proof because he is the one making a claim. But what David fails to realize is that John's claims are not original claims, but are, in fact, refutations of David's original claim.

David claims that invisible pink unicorns exist. He must prove that. He must be able to provide evidence that his claim is correct when John says that invisibility and unicorns are not real.

David cannot assume that he is right and then use that assumption to push the burden of proof onto someone else.

Anonymous said...

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/allpossibleworlds.html

Assumption (1): God exists.
Assumption (1a): God is all-knowing.
Assumption (1b): God is all-powerful.
Assumption (1c): God is perfectly loving.
Assumption (1d): Any being that did not possess all three of the above properties would not be God.
Premise (2): Evil exists.
Premise (3): An all-knowing being would be aware of the existence of evil.
Premise (4): An all-powerful being would be able to eliminate evil.
Premise (5): A perfectly loving being would desire to eliminate evil.
Conclusion (6): Evil does not exist. (from (1),(3),(4),(5))
Contradiction: But evil does exist. (from (2))
Conclusion (7): There is no being that is all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly loving. (from (2),(3),(4),(5))
Conclusion (8): God does not exist. (from (7),(1d))

The argument's logic is ironclad, and its simple but far-reaching conclusion is that the existence of evil in the world disproves the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly loving god. The only way to refute the problem of evil without surrendering the assumption that such a god exists is to deny one of its premises.


I thought this was a pretty good summary. Any comments?
Surely it's up to the theist to prove one of the premises wrong?

es said...

David wrote: Ahhhh, the brilliant refutations one finds on "Debunking Christianity,"

David, why would I bother to waste my time with refuting your "evidence." Any sane person can see it's nonsense. That you can't merely shows how deeply immersed in your delusion you are. I pity you but you cling tightly to your delusion out of need. Nothing RATIONAL anyone can say to you would change your mind.

Sophia De Morgan said...

Dagoods,
From reading David’s relevant posts, I’d say that you have misunderstood his take on the burden of proof. He’s simply arguing that since the particular topic of the debate was does suffering make God’s existence implausible and John had the affirmative position, John had the responsibility to defend his argument and its successfulness. David, in the negative position, could present an alternative hypothesis as you mentioned or simply make objections to John’s argument. David made objections, so John had to respond to those objections in order for his argument to stand. If John did answer all these objections, then the final question of who won the debate would be based on who had stronger reasons.

Curiosis,
Your scenario is the same as Weisberger's and suffers from the same flaw apart from its obvious intent to insult; it is a strained analogy. This has been more than sufficiently addressed.

Anon,
I find it amusing that in the article you cited, there is a quotation from William Lane Craig referring to PoE as "atheism's killer argument" since John has been accusing David of being on a lower tier of thinkers for saying this.
There also is another unstated assumption in the argument you cited, namely that God doesn’t have a sufficient reason to allow suffering, and that’s where theodicies do come in to offer what might be some of those reasons. I do agree that Christian apologists have to respond to arguments against God’s existence, certainly no one denies that.

es,
Many people, including noted scientists, philosophers, writers, artists, etc., have believed in the Fall, which is an integral part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The fact that you indiscriminately imply that all Jews and Christians are insane shows your own bias.

John W. Loftus said...

Mrs. Wood. It's not beyond me to be wrong or to misunderstand David. I am surely wrong about some things, and maybe you're right about this. It's just that in an atmosphere where I feel we're both on the attack we are not inclined to give each other any benefit of the doubt. That's the kind of atmosphere I am not interested in, no matter who created it. It's simply not healthy. Surely you understand.

I wish you both happiness and love.

DagoodS said...

Sophia De Morgan,

Thank you for the response. Yes, I knew that David Wood indicated the Burden of Proof in the debate itself was on John W. Loftus.

What I was looking for was what Mr. Wood’s perspective was as to the Burden of Proof within every debate regarding the Argument from Evil

My impression was that the Burden of proof was ALWAYS on the person arguing against God’s existence using this argument. And, that if the Burden was on the theist, the theist would fail.

In other words, my impression was that David Wood was saying whoever has the Burden of proof will always fail.

To explain why I thought it was much broader than the formal debate itself, if you will forgive me, I will give three lengthy quotes from Mr. Wood within the response to this entry.

David Wood: A huge part of the analysis concerns burden of proof. Here's why. If we assume from the beginning that the atheist bears the burden of proof to show that the argument really does what he claims it does, then if we end up at a standstill on some point, the argument fails, because the atheist hasn't proved that it succeeds. But if we assume that the theist bears the burden of proof when the atheist makes the argument, then if we end at standstill, the theist loses, because he has failed to show whatever it is he's required to show.

David Wood: In a debate on whether the Argument from Evil proves the non-existence of God, the atheist is making the argument, and therefore bears the burden of proof.

David Wood: The conclusion of the Argument from Evil is that God doesn't exist. … Notice that, in such a situation, the only person advocating a position, the only person trying to prove a view, is the atheist. So here, the atheist is the only one making a positive claim, and the only one who bears the burden of proof.

So, if you would be so helpful, or if David Wood would care to answer, I would certainly appreciate it.

Not just in the formal debate, but in any debate regarding the Argument from evil, is he saying that whoever has the Burden of Proof will automatically fail?

Anonymous said...

Sophia De Morgan:There also is another unstated assumption in the argument you cited, namely that God doesn’t have a sufficient reason to allow suffering, and that’s where theodicies do come in to offer what might be some of those reasons.

Isn't this really a disagreement with premise 5?

Sophia De Morgan said...

Dagoods,
Okay, I see what you’re saying. There are a lot of variables involved in the PoE, and as far as what John and David have been arguing, they do seem to be at an impasse. The burden of proof the atheist wants to give the theist is "Explain all evil/suffering" so even if the theist offers some good theodicies, she can’t absolutely prove that every instance of suffering is really justified.
If however, the burden of proof rests on the atheist, the atheist can make a good case for gratuitous/pointless suffering but can't absolutely prove that there isn't a reason for it. Also, the argument from evil has a lot of assumptions that make it even less persuasive to the theist. One thing that David has pointed out to John is that the theist doesn't use pain and pleasure as the most important measures of the goodness of the world; rather the theist holds that the development of specific virtues are worth a world with suffering. These value differences have a crucial impact on whether or not a theist will be persuaded by the arg from evil. So again, standstill.
Perhaps potentially though, the one bearing the burden could win based on some probability calculations which would include the variables that come into play with the PoE. That was a short answer, but you raised a good question that would be very interesting to explore further...perhaps in an upcoming post on David's PoE site.

Anon,
The theist wouldn’t disagree with God’s desire to do away with evil, and according to Christian theology God eventually will, but God may have a purpose for allowing evil to temporarily exist even if this holds a tension with his loving nature.

I think this will probably be my last post b/c I have to get back to my studies and then to sleep. Thanks for the exchange. Cheers.

RickU said...

I don't have anything cogent to add to this. I did want to remark that whenever any of you use the POE acronym I automatically fill it in with "Purity of Essence" from Dr. Strangelove.

DagoodS said...

Thanks, Sophia De Morgan, for the follow-up.

Maybe I am incredibly thick, but the waters still seem muddy to me.

Sophia De Morgan: The burden of proof the atheist wants to give the theist is "Explain all evil/suffering" so even if the theist offers some good theodicies, she can’t absolutely prove that every instance of suffering is really justified. If however, the burden of proof rests on the atheist, the atheist can make a good case for gratuitous/pointless suffering but can't absolutely prove that there isn't a reason for it.

Again, that seems to be saying (to me) that if the theist has the burden of proof, she will fail, but if the atheist has the burden of proof, he will fail. That whoever has the burden of proof will lose the argument due to the impasse. (And, again, I am talking about every argument, not just this specific debate.)

I guess I will have to wander off unsatisfied. Perhaps it will be cleared up in the future.



However, can I make an observation that will probably be roasted by all? I have not followed the interchange on David Wood’s blog. I was actually interested in this minute subsection on Burden of Proof for another reason, and was genuinely curious as to what exactly David Wood meant.

Obviously had I jumped in with what it appeared to me David Wood was saying, I would have been informed that I was “mischaracterizing” his argument. Fair enough. But that is what I understood him to be arguing. Instead, I asked before leaping, and I am still informed that this is a mischaracterization of his argument (which is fine) but I can’t seem to get clarification on what his argument is! (And maybe this is just me. Maybe my mind won’t “click” on this, and everyone else will move on, fully understanding what David Wood means by this.)

In reviewing this blog entry and the comments, I get the distinct impression there have been numerous accusations of people mischaracterizing someone else’s argument. Accusations from both sides. Having asked just this one question on this one issue, and being left in the same daze I started, I can see how such mischaracterizations could easily occur.

Now my suggestion that will get me in trouble, I suspect. Rather than accuse the other person of mischaracterizing my argument, can I take responsibility that it was my fault for not being clear, and refrain from the initial reaction of “you mischaracterize what I say,” instead attempt to re-phrase it or make it more clear, in the mindset that the other person is being genuine in framing my statements, and it was my inadequacy that brought about the situation?

In other words…uh…consider the other person better than myself? And yes, I mean that for both sides.

You may now throw tomatoes. :-)

Einzige said...

Ahhhh, the brilliant refutations one finds on "Debunking Christianity," where universes can pop into existence uncaused, but man cannot fall from grace; where amazingly complex structures can form without a designer, but God cannot honor our decision to live apart from him...

Ahhh, the brilliant David Wood, who apparently believes in such things as

1) Gods who can create whole universes can pop into existence uncaused.

2) Sons can be born from virgin mothers.

3) The entire pantheon of the animal kingdom can exist for 40 days on a single boat.

4) God needs to send his son down to Earth to die to "cleanse" everyone else of their filthy sins, which are the result of their nature, given to them by this same God.

5) When someone makes an argument for something, they still have the "burden of proof" for the conclusion of that argument, apparently regardless of the truth or falsity of the premises of the argument, and the logical validity of the argument itself.

6) People can be ressurected from the dead.

Yep, David, your intellect is truly a force to be reconned with.

Anonymous said...

David Wood said - "Here's the deal. Some theists (like myself) believe in God based on evidence."

And I believe in The Great Pumpkin based on evidence (the inspired writings of Charles Shultz).

Randy

John W. Loftus said...

DagoodS, I appreciate your comments. But as you said, you haven't followed our discussions. If you had, then what you said would have more weight.

There is only so much ignorance and mischaracterization that I can take, leaving aside the debate about whether the PoE is an atheist argument, and leaving aside the burden of proof argument. I mentioned other things in my Blog entry, which I'm sure you've read. With him it seems as though it was everyday.

Please re-read my original Blog entry here and tell me how much you could take of that. He said I never offered a serious argument, and that I'm arguing I wish I never existed. He's not doing this with you, is he? Back seat drivers and grandstand observers can always say they'd do differently, now can't they?

I trashed him in our debate on October 7th. I smoked him. But since few people have ever seen it he can proclaim victory all he wants to, starting with claiming I had to prove my case, and you remember that discussion because you entered it. It's not that I care who won it. I didn't initially. But he's running around acting like he did. That's what irritates me. I challenge any fair minded person, Christian or non-Christian, to watch the debate and to conclude he won it. That's what irritates me, especially when he wrote what he did about Weisberger and Jeffry's comments.

Since David holds the copyright to it, and since I told him how to post it on YouTube, the only reason it's not there right now is because he hasn't yet done it. [No, I'll not mischaracterize why he hasn't put it there. I'll not claim that it's not there because he lost the debate, or that he cannot handle the evidence, or that he never offered a serious argument, like he has with me. I don't know why it's not there. But I can't put it there].

Don't tell me all of this wouldn't bother you, either.

I've had enough of it. The Triablogue thing was the clincher, the straw that broke the camel's back. If you would like to continue on where I left off, be my guest. I'll sit back and watch. He's dense, bullheaded, and blinded by his faith. Dr. Weisberger has followed what we have each said and she concluded I am wasting my time with him. You can either take her advice, read what she has read, or learn on your own, but he's all yours.

There are actually more than ten total things David argues where he is simply uniformed (including my original Blog entry here). He cannot state my argument when he attempts it (would you like to state an argument for him to continually mischaracterize it?); he argued I can't complain about evil in the world if I enjoy my life (this is nonsense); he argued I can't press this argument if I don't have an absolute moral standard to do so (ridiculous); he argued that in the debate I had to nearly prove my side of the debate question based upon the wording of the debate (stupid and uncharitable); he argued that giving a razor blade to a child is non-analogous to God giving us free will even though we equally abuse that gift so badly (without so much as an argument); he continued to argue that the design argument is an answer to the problem of evil, even though the debate assumes the existence of his omni-God and asks him to explain evil if God exists (ignorant); he continually claims that existing is "better" than non-existing when we're talking about humans in this world of suffering, (without offering an argument); he argues that free will is an inherently good thing without an analysis of what free will is, and without acknowledging that none of us have this kind of abstract free will in the first place (uninformed); and he has said he was not concerned that much with animal suffering (callous).

Now granted, the way I just described each of these above things is a paraphrase of what he has said. Without going into a long discussion of what he's said I can only state the botton line when describing them so briefly, and I admit this. He'll state the same things and not admit this, which is the difference that makes all of the difference.

Now, take any of these issues up with him that you want to. Rise above the fray if you can.

Or end up wallowing in the mire.

I wish you both good luck.

Nothing personal with anyone here.

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, and another thing. I am "refuted" easily.

Fuck that.

John W. Loftus said...

Whether the argument from evil is an atheist argument is very important to Mr. Wood. For if it is an atheist argument then he can turn around and say atheists cannot make it, here.

If he wants to make the distinction that it's not an atheist argument until an atheist uses it, then what he's doing is the same thing he's doing when he says the design argument is an answer to the problem of evil.

These are separate arguments. What if I said the problem of evil shows his omni-God false, and he responds by saying the resurrection proves that God exists? We could have a debate like that you know. I would never deal with the evidence for the resurrection and would never deal with the problem of evil.

But we wouldn't be dealing with the same issue. Until we decide to stick with one argument at a time, we're talking past each other. This is what Mr. Wood does. If he wanted to deal with morality for an athiest, or the design argument, then his Blog should be titled as such. I have continually wanted to stay focused on the problem of evil.

Yes, the atheist has difficulties too, but we're not dealing with those difficulties. So pointing these difficulties out says nothing whatsoever about his difficulties, which would arise even if there were no atheist around to press this argument.

John W. Loftus said...

In the link I just provided David said this to me:

Your constant resistance here can only be interpreted as an acknowledgement that you just don't have any answers, that you really are inconsistent, and that the Argument from Evil is indeed filled with internal problems. But of course, this won't bother you at all. After all, you don't care if your own position is filled with problems, so long as you can continue to complain about theism.

I'm done here.

es said...

Sophia, you said "Many people, including noted scientists, philosophers, writers, artists, etc., have believed in the Fall, which is an integral part of the Judeo-Christian tradition."

This is the argumentum ad populum. Many people also believed the earth was flat, that Zeus was the ruler of the universe, and that demons caused illness. Whether people recognize a delusion or not is beside the point.

I don't think that all Jews and Christians are "insane," merely that they are misguided and misinformed. My comment was badly worded perhaps. However, some people are open to considering new evidence; David Wood is not as he has made abundantly clear here and on his own blog.

It is a mark of being out of touch with reality that one consistently rejects concrete evidence against their position, and that NOTHING anyone could say would change their mind. I don't think you will find many atheists who would take that approach.